Free Software Claus is Coming to Town

I help organize a conference for Free Software enthusiasts called SeaGL. This year I’m proud to report that Shauna Gordon McKeon and Richard Stallman (aka “RMS”) are keynote speakers.

I first invited RMS to Seattle 13 years ago, and finally in 2015 it all came together. In his words:

My talks are not technical. The topics of free software, copyright vs community, and digital inclusion deal with ethical/political issues that concern all users of computers.

So please do come on down to Seattle Central College on October 23rd and 24th, 2015 for SeaGL!

Does the FSF need better top-down social skills?

Larry Cafiero and Joe Brockmeier are two big voices for technological freedom. They’re both pretty fired up about RMS’s f-you epitaph of Jobs.

Generally you want the figurehead of a public foundation to be, uh, attractive. Intellectually, maybe even physically. Right? Not only does the cause itself have to make sense, these people need to attract other people to their cause. And they usually “say the right things”, smile, wear a suit, whatever. But I always thought these requirements only applied to other causes (besides Free Software).

Certainly RMS lacking those traits didn’t keep me from FLOSS. I heard about RMS and the proprietary printer a while back, and that’s all it took to get me hooked on FLOSS. I could identify immediately because I write software, and proprietary code is a pain. His cause just makes sense, even if he doesn’t. But I’ve been justifying his abnormal behavior because, well, he started something new! Something important. He knew it was important, and dedicated his life to this thing that many, many folks never even know exists. Something that affects all our lives, every day, more and more. Software must support our Freedom, or we are not free.

So he won me over, but I’m a nerd. I’m used to eccentrics in my field. Truth wins, period. And I still don’t know if it matters if RMS is a polished, smiley, public-friendly dude or not. Would Free Software be farther along today if RMS were kinder, more respectful, or somehow a better “public figure”? Would DRM have never been allowed to exist? Would the government pass laws that software for implanted medical devices be Free?

What’s wrong with the GNU autotools?

The GNU build system (aka Autotools) is/are too fricking hard to use. But I’m split… when the conventions of autotools are embraced, the product is quite portable. Though not very maintainable. Is it impossible to be infinitely adaptable and still be user friendly?

Ian Lance Taylor captures what’s wrong with autotools quite nicely. Ian says Cmake isn’t a suitable replacement, but perhaps it could evolve into one.

Here’s a nice comparison of several alternatives.